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Editor’s note: Isabelle Huppert will no longer be appearing at the festival because of a positive Covid diagnosis.
Parisian-born Isabelle Huppert is an icon in the French – and global – cinema world, so it’s no wonder that the 72nd Berlin Film Festival decided to honor her this year with their Golden Bear award for lifetime achievement. Her film About Joan is appearing at Berlin this year, out of competition.
Berlin Film Festival, also known as “Berlinale,” is in full swing, Covid-19 testing buses, vaccine checks, and all. The festival, which runs from February 10 to February 20, 2022, is elevated by honoring Huppert, a titan of cinema. Not even a global pandemic can dampen the excitement that the 68-year-old actress brings.
Berlinale directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said of Huppert in a statement: “The Honorary Golden Bear may seem like a natural progression in a career without equal, since Isabelle Huppert is one of the few artists recognized with acting awards at all major film festivals. But Isabelle Huppert is more than a celebrated actor – she is an uncompromising artist who doesn’t hesitate to take risks and flout mainstream trends.”
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Huppert has performed in over 120 feature films and frequently works with female directors, a fact which sets her apart from other actors. She’s also appeared with her daughter, actress Lolita Chammah, in five films. Huppert starred in movies like Elle (which earned her an Oscar nomination; she’s one of 13 French actresses to have been nominated for an Oscar), The Piano Teacher, Story of Women, Paris Follies, 8 Femmes, and more. Huppert won two of the whopping (and record-breaking) 16 César Awards she’s been nominated for; her first nomination was for the 1975 film Aloïse. She’s been nominated for six Lumières Awards and won four. In 2020, The New York Times ranked the French actress as number two on its list of the greatest actors of the 21st century, and it’s easy to see why: Apart from being an acting machine, she brings nuance, depth, and true artistry to each of her film roles.
The two-time Cannes best actress winner is also a prolific theater actress. She made her London stage debut in Mary Stuart in 1996 and her New York stage debut in 4.48 Psychosis. Huppert’s pursuit of improving her craft and experiencing it in myriad mediums is admirable and noteworthy. She continues her stage work and is currently starring in The Cherry Orchard onstage in Paris.
The actress was born in Paris’s 16th arrondissement. Her mother was a teacher, and her father was a safe manufacturer. It was Huppert’s mother who encouraged her to begin acting. Like many other notable performers, Huppert is the youngest child in her family. Born in Paris, she was raised in Ville-d’Avray, in the city’s western suburbs. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter recently, Huppert says, “Like many young kids, my mother took me to an acting school. When I was onstage, I immediately saw I was in my element. I was happy onstage. And it was easy. It didn’t require any effort. I never really felt I had to learn something or fight to do it. Being an actress was all very easy from the very beginning.”
When asked about how the industry has changed during her career – particularly with the current dominance of digital streaming platforms – Huppert shares her frank thoughts with THR. She says, “Well, I could be optimistic and say I don’t see any change. If I am very pessimistic, I could be like Jean-Luc Godard, who quite a few years ago predicted the end of cinema.”
She continues, “In France right now, what we call auteur films, especially for an older audience, it is very difficult for them to be successful. Even bigger films, like The Last Duel or West Side Story, have not been so successful. It’s difficult to say exactly the reasons why this is happening. Is it the strength of television series? Is it the pandemic? I don’t know.” Huppert, though, ever a champion of film says, “I still believe in cinema.”
Berlinale will be screening a selection of works from her over 50-year career to honor Huppert’s work, including The Lacemaker, Elle, Things to Come, Jean-Luc Godard’s Every Man for Himself, and more.
Lead photo credit : Isabelle Huppert © Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0